[Originally published in Munting Nayon Magazine for the Filipino community in the Netherlands]
I’ve been writing a lot about how the social web has become an inherent part of this generation’s politicisation and mediation of the world. Actually, it’s helping everyone of all ages from all over to see the world from different perspectives in ways that are fast, easy, and in most cases, real-time. It’s contributing profoundly to the development of a networked way of thinking, observing and doing. For example, social technologies help expose people to various societal problems and current events, so much so that local issues become global concerns. This has become evident in the way we’ve experienced the social uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and all across the Arab world. Likewise, it has impacted how natural calamities are seen and reported, and its stories documented, shared and remembered. The recent natural disasters that devastated New Zealand and Japan attest to this new way of understanding and mediating the events that happen around us.
Whether suffering and tragedies are turned into mere spectacles is another matter. By the same token, though there are various levels of accessibility to the social web, it’s not a part of the everyday life of the majority of the world’s poorest sectors. However, what many critics of social media miss is that while the media and tools are new, the social is not. Neither is the end goal of transformation. For this is ultimately one, if not the most compelling aspect, of the social web’s existence and development: mediating and remediating our experience of the world and our relationships, and changing ourselves in the process.
Here are a few of my favourite examples of how the social web is interwoven in our day-to-day political, work or personal experiences.
1. Quick response to social causes
Social games. Just one or two days after Japan fell to an earthquake and tsunami, Zynga used its social games to raise funds for the victims of this twin disaster. It released a brand new crop in Farmville – the Daikon Radish. Players can donate by purchasing it, and Zynga will match the value of their donation. All profits will go to the NGO, Save the Children.
Person Finder Tools. Google’s Person Finder lets you set up profile pages for loved ones. Anyone with information can simply search for the person’s name and then post an update. The Red Cross’s Family Links website helps people who have become separated by conflict or disaster get back in contact with each other.
Stories, status, tweets. As we Filipinos experienced ourselves when Ondoy hit the country, it’s sometimes better to resort to social media and networks in times of crisis. Your personal social network page can be used to broadcast updates, coordinate efforts and basically just keep in touch with family and friends during emergencies. For example, the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo encourages its U.S. citizens in Japan, to contact loved ones via SMS texting and other social media they use. Another case is how ‘Facebook Stories’ is helping people find each other in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
2. Paying homage to departed loved ones
What it is
1000memories.com is a free site that helps people commemorate the life of a loved one by putting everybody’s memories (stories, pictures, video and audio) together, so their lives can be remembered, together, in one place. By using it, you can create a place where visitors can gather and remember the lives of the people you love most, so their stories can be remembered and passed down to future generations. (Source: website). I love this initiative as it brings out the best in the social web: collaboration, storytelling, emotional interfaces and authenticity. It addresses a very real and emotional need by giving users a collaborative, social and creative platform to remember and honour our departed loved ones together.
What you can do
You commemorate your loved one by telling their story. You create a memory page where you and your family and friends can share photos, videos, and stories together. It’s a deeply social and collaborative process of remembering our departed loved ones. Anyone can create the page and start inviting family & friends to share memories.
Good to know
1000memories.com doesn’t sell your information and promise to never to sell advertising on your loved one’s memory page. Plus they’re committed to keep the basic service free for everybody. And most importantly, they use a trusted data platform so that memories can be kept safe and passed down to future generations.
3. Collaborative design that goes beyond business goals
What it is
IDEO is a leading global design consultancy that creates impact through design. OpenIDEO is a wonderful initiative where the design process is used socially to generate ideas and create feasible concepts for social good. It’s an online platform for creative thinkers and passionate change-makers that draws on their opinion, optimism, and inspiration to concretely design projects for social good. It poses challendes such as, ‘How might we improve maternal health with mobile technologies for low-income countries?’, and ‘How can we raise kids’ awareness of the benefits of fresh food so they can make better choices?’
What you can do
A challenge is posed to the public. After a challenge is posted at OpenIDEO.com, it’s threshed out in three development phases – inspiration, concepting, and evaluation. Community members can contribute in various ways, such as submitting inspirational observations and photos, idea sketches, business models, and even snippets of code. It can also be as simple as a comment; or it can branch out to a new idea by building off a previous person’s work.
Participants are expected to provide feedback every step of the design process. “Between each development phase, IDEO helps shape the journey through framing the challenge, prototyping, and encouraging the conversation. At the end, a top concept is chosen. All concepts generated are shareable, remix-able, and reusable in a similar way to ‘creative commons’. The hope is that some of these concepts will become reality outside of OpenIDEO.com.” At the moment of this writing, there are 2,329 Inspirations; 1,185 Concepts; and 12,561 users.
Good to know
OpenIDEO is inclusive. Anyone from different levels of disciplines can participate in various levels. It’s community-centred — it thrives in inspiration and participation, It promotes collaboration over competition. The platform becomes better as more and more people build on one another’s ideas. It encourages optimism, pro-active spirit and creativity. And lastly, it adopts an ‘Always in beta’ attitude. It believes in continuous, iterative and scalable improvements.
4. Democratising data
Digital Public Square of the District of Columbia
Vivek Kundra, America’s Federal Chief Information Officer (CIO), spearheaded this project when he was still the Chief Technology Officer of D.C. This portal allowed online access to different government data and services, making it easier for the public to interact with the federal government. A major part of this project was the innovation contest, ‘Apps for Democracy’, where D.C. released its database to the public and encouraged talented technologists and creatives to create the most useful applications from DC’s Data Catalog.
The result: 47 applications ranging from web applications, widgets, Google Maps mash-ups, iPhone apps, Facebook apps, and other digital utilities were developed, representing $2,000,000+ in value and a 4000% ROI.
MAPLight.org is a public database that illuminates the connection between campaign donations and legislative votes. (Author: Exactly what we need in the Philippines!) Two public databases are combined: a database of all known campaign contributions to any legislator, and a database on how legislators voted on specific bills and resolutions. Bringing the data on money and voting together in an accessible way is groundbreaking as it opens the doors for the public to the legislative processes in the US in an accessible and creative way. The World Summit Awards describes this website as a “…treasure for journalists, NGOs, and bloggers. It helps, citizens to hold legislators accountable. MAPLight.org, findings makes complex research publically available in an instant and shows that public scrutiny can be also visually appealing, easy-to-use, and customizable.”
I’ll try to cite more noteworthy social web applications and services in future articles. But what I’m curious to find out is what the Pinoy community in the Netherlands think and feel about the social web? What kinds of social and collaborative platforms do we need? How can we leverage the social web to promote our causes and bring the community closer? Got any ideas? Share it! 😉